How Much Does Radiant Floor Heating Cost—and How Much Will You Save?

How Much Does Radiant Floor Heating Cost—and How Much Will You Save?


Radiant floor heating—an alternative to traditional forced-air heating where heated coils under the floor provide warmth—is growing in popularity, which might have you wondering: How much does radiant floor heating cost? The price ranges from $5 to $12 per square foot, although installation costs will vary based on the type of radiant floor heating you pick

“There are a lot of variables when it comes to pricing floor heating,” says Julia Billen of radiant floor manufacturer Warmly Yours.

But keep this in mind: Although installing radiant floor heating is more expensive than traditional air vents, it’s also 30% more energy-efficient (and can slash your heating bills by a third). The reason: Heat radiates up from the ground, where people are, instead of having to travel from ducts along the ceiling, losing warmth along the way.

Another nice thing about radiant floor heating is how well it interfaces with solar panels. Since the water needs to be heated only to 100 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s easy to use solar energy directly—that could conceivably drop your heating bill to zero when the sun is shining.

So how exactly does radiant floor heating work, and how easily can it be incorporated into a home? Here’s a rundown of what to expect.

Electric radiant floor heating

There are two main types of radiant floor heating systems: electric and hydronic. Electric radiant floor heating is the kind that comes in mats of electric cables that are installed below your flooring of choice.

Cost: DIY mat kits at hardware stores and from online vendors run $5 to $11 per square foot (including installation costs).

Pros: It’s easy to install. If you are already doing a bathroom or kitchen renovation and have the floors open, this would be a relatively affordable luxury.

Cons: Because electricity is expensive, this kind of heated flooring is best for small spaces like bathrooms, rather than a whole-house heating system.

Hydronic radiant floor heating

Hydronic radiant floor heating is the way to go if you’re looking for a whole-house heating option. In this method, tubes of water heated by your water heater or boiler run below the floor.

Cost: Kits cost $6 to $12 per square foot (including installation costs). You also need a big enough water heater or boiler to handle the added load, plus thermostats compatible with floor sensors.

Pros: Heated water is far more efficient than electricity to warm a home, resulting in lower energy bills.

Cons: The easiest way to install hydronic radiant heat flooring is as part of a new build; as a retrofit, it can be difficult. If you aren’t already tearing up the flooring for a remodel, installation becomes more complicated (and expensive). The tubing is attached from the underside of the subfloor, assuming it can be accessed from a basement. For second and third stories, it may require removing ceilings from some rooms.

Downsides of radiant floor heating

Aside from the increased cost of installing radiant floor heating, the biggest con is that unlike a forced-air system, it does not work as a cooling system in the summer. Although radiant floor cooling does exist, it doesn’t work quite as well because it can make floors feel damp (although this can be solved with a geothermal heat pump). And if something goes wrong, radiant floor heating can be difficult to repair, because you need to get underneath the floor to fix any leaks or electrical problems.

So, make sure you’ve fully explored the pros and cons of radiant floor heating before you take the plunge.

Article by: Audrey Ference
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